the quran clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, besides perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. its bases are love and mercy.
among the most impressive verses in the quran about marriage is the following.
"and among his signs is this: that he created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and he ordained between you love and mercy. lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect." [noble quran 30:21]
according to islamic law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.
ibn 'abbas reported that a girl came to the messenger of god, muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. the messenger of god gave her the choice... (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). [ibn hanbal no. 2469]
in another version, the girl said:
"actually i accept this marriage but i wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)" [ibn majah, no. 1873]
besides all other provisions for her protection at the time of marriage, it was specifically decreed that woman has the full right to her mahr, a marriage gift, which is presented to her by her husband and is included in the nuptial contract, and that such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband. the concept of mahr in islam is neither an actual or symbolic price for the woman, as was the case in certain cultures, but rather it is a gift symbolizing love and affection.
the rules for married life in islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. in consideration of the physiological and psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. this is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.
the quran thus states:
"...and they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are a degree above them." [noble quran 2:228]
such degree is quiwama (maintenance and protection). this refers to that natural difference between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to protection. it implies no superiority or advantage before the law. yet, man's role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean the husband's dictatorship over his wife. islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions. the quran gives us an example:
"...if they (husband wife) desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame on them..." [noble quran 2:233]
over and above her basic rights as a wife comes the right which is emphasized by the quran and is strongly recommended by the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); kind treatment and companionship.
the quran states:
"...but consort with them in kindness, for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein god has placed much good." [noble quran 4:19]
prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"the best of you is the best to his family and i am the best among you to my family."
the most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives. [ibn-hanbal, no. 7396]
behold, many women came to muhammad's wives complaining against their husbands (because they beat them) - - those (husbands) are not the best of you.
as the woman's right to decide about her marriage is recognized, so also her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is recognized. to provide for the stability of the family, however, and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress, certain steps and waiting periods should be observed by men and women seeking divorce. considering the relatively more emotional nature of women, a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before the judge. like the man, however, the woman can divorce her husband with out resorting to the court, if the nuptial contract allows that.
more specifically, some aspects of islamic law concerning marriage and divorce are interesting and are worthy of separate treatment.
when the continuation of the marriage relationship is impossible for any reason, men are still taught to seek a gracious end for it.
the quran states about such cases:
"when you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits)..." [noble quran 2:231] [see also quran 2:229 and 33:49]